The revolutionaries are taking France over. Before Marie Antoinette realizes it, they’ve invaded her home and threatened the lives of her family and loved ones. Marie Antoinette herself is reviled as a foreign, an inconsiderate woman who has no discrimination about who she sleeps with or why. She must be the cause of all the wrongs that the people have experienced and they are calling for her head. The Revolution is right at the gates of Versailles and the once-loved King and Queen of France become, somehow, enemies of the people, prisoners of the state, their lives hanging by fragile threads.
This story was never going to end well. Everyone who has even the remotest familiarity with French history knows the fate of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. An author who isn’t writing an alternate history knows the ending. Still, though, after spending this whole trilogy with Marie Antoinette, the final volume of her story is heart-breaking. I can’t begin to imagine how it must have felt for the author, and the many people who choose this tragic woman as their subject, once the final page is written.
Despite the inevitable ending and the gradually more desperate tone of the book, Confessions of Marie Antoinette is a book that continued the excellence of the rest of the trilogy and concluded it in a way that is perfectly appropriate to Marie Antoinette’s story. The book is not without its moments. I thought personally one of the most touching was the way in which their immediate family was drawn closer together, towards the middle of the book. In captivity, stripped of the trappings of royalty, the “Capets” become a small, surprisingly loving nuclear family. They’re weathering a crisis together and it does indeed bring them together.
Somehow this makes the rest of the book all the sadder.
Grey navigates the confusing environment of the French Revolution deftly. It would be easy to get bogged down in politics, but she always manages to keep a central focus on Marie Antoinette and her family. While there is necessarily an element of telling, not showing, owing to the fact that Marie Antoinette spends a lot of the book away from the action, I never felt like the story slowed to accommodate it.
Instead, Grey uses a second viewpoint character, Louison, to give us an idea of the revolutionary feeling. I think Louison is intended to show how the citizens could get so caught up in revolutionary fervor that they let a minority commit truly radical acts. I never really connected with her, though, maybe because I was too busy feeling for the royal family.
I would definitely recommend this trilogy of books to anyone who is interested in reading excellent fiction about Marie Antoinette. As the conclusion, Confessions of Marie Antoinette is just as good as the previous two books by Juliet Grey, perfect for historical fiction lovers.